The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.
One must admire Jefferson’s eloquence. And one can easily see how his sentiments have been misconstrued and used as a proof-text for secularist propaganda. The mythical “separation of church and state” [as practiced today] is not only repugnant to the Constitution; it is foreign to Jefferson himself. I should begin with a brief historical context.
Jefferson wrote this letter in answer to a correspondence he received from the Baptist Association located in the state of Connecticut. Baptists were a minority and had some apprehensions [understandably so, given their history with the Church of England] that perhaps the majority, Congregationalists, would interfere with their religious convictions. The Association wrote: "Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals -- that no man ought to suffer in Name, person or affects on account of his religious Opinions.” Of course, Jefferson concurred.
Furthermore, previously I said that the First Amendment applies only to the legislature; and Jefferson quite agrees. Notice how he qualifies his remarks to refer to “legislative powers of government.” Unlike activist judges, Jefferson respects the Constitution and adheres to what it says. Nowhere in this letter does Jefferson advocate secularism. He was simply assuaging the concerns of the Baptists by affirming that there should be no Church of Connecticut or Church of the United States.
Regrettably, out-of-control federal courts abuse the Constitution and misuse Jefferson’s metaphor while the masses are unaware. Matthew D. Staver, Esq. observes,
The "wall of separation between church and state" phrase as understood by Jefferson was never meant to exclude people of faith from influencing and shaping government. Jefferson would be shocked to learn that his letter has been used as a weapon against religion. He would never countenance such shabby and distorted use of history.
Perhaps Jefferson’s metaphor, in its rightful context, was useful. However, former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, agrees with Staver: “The ‘wall of separation between church and State’ is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.”
It has been said that the freedom of worship has degenerated into the worship of freedom. And in regards to the public square, we could say the freedom of worship has devolved into the freedom from worship. This is the goal of secularism: to strip the public sphere of religious ideals and influence. But will the thus denuded public square be truly naked?
Not exactly, no. Why? Because secularism is itself a religion--and a highly evangelistic one at that. As secularist Robert Ingersoll exults,
Secularism is the religion of humanity. It is a protest against theological oppression...it means the abolition of sectarian feuds, of theological hatreds. Secularism is a religion, a religion that is understood. http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/robert_ingersoll/secularism.htmlCertainly there are secularists who would disagree with their own Ingersoll. They would disagree with him but only in part. They would disagree with his characterization of secularism as a religion, but they would not disagree with his stated ideology. Yet these secularists, who deny that secularism is a religion, zealously believe the ideology of secularism to be true. This is why, in the name of tolerance, they loathe and prosecute [Could we say persecute?] those who dare to disagree with them.
They religiously practice and evangelistically propagate secularist ideology. The cult of Secularism holds its doctrine to be exclusively true and it harbors suspicion and hatred-- born of irrational, intense fear--against all “others.” Indeed, Secularists are true believers. This cannot be denied.